The worsening COVID-19 situation in NSW with transmission into other states has led the New Zealand Government to act "with an abundance of caution", suspending the travel bubble with Australia for eight weeks starting at 11:59pm NZT tonight.
While New Zealand already has paused quarantine-free travel to the Australian states of NSW, VIC and SA, covering approximately half the country's population, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there is "no doubt the movement of people can complicate recovery".
"It is the government's duty to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19, and we continue to believe that the strongest health response is also the strongest economic response," PM Ardern says.
"The Director General of Health has recommended and Cabinet has agreed to suspend quarantine-free travel with Australia. From 11:59pm tonight Australians will no longer be able to enter New Zealand quarantine-free - this will be in place for at least the next eight weeks."
She clarifies the NZ Government is "absolutely committed" to getting New Zealanders in Australia home.
"For the next seven days we will have managed return flights for New Zealanders from all states and territories. Only New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand will be able to fly home," she says.
"While we have set the return period to seven days, if we have not met the demand for Kiwis to return in that time we will work with the airlines to extend those flights for a few days till we have brought all those who intend to come home.
As is already the case, anyone who has been in NSW in the last 14 days can only return to New Zealand by a flight from Sydney and will still have to go into manage isolation for 14 days. Those who have been in Victoria must have proof of a negative pre-departure test a and must immediately self isolate upon return, and return a negative day-three test before ending the isolation period.
"For everyone else, you can fly home provided you have evidence of a negative pre-departure test, which is our existing arrangement," Ardern says.
"Once we've exhausted the demand for Kiwis to return, then the suspension of travel will be fully implemented. That means all incoming travellers from Australia will need to have a spot in managed isolation."
The NZ Prime Minister did however emphasise she wanted the travel bubble, which has seen more than 200,000 people travel between the two countries, to return and an assessment will be undertaken at the eight-week mark.
"Firstly, we do want the bubble to resume. We remain committed to it, and when I spoke to Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning I conveyed this view directly, but it must be safe," she says.
"In the lead-up to reviewing the suspension we'd need to be certain that the outbreak in New South Wales and wider Australia is contained, that in remaining cases are generally linked, that we don't see the large number of cases we're currently seeing in the community.
"We'd want to ensure that New Zealand's elimination strategy would not be at risk from resuming quarantine-free travel."
Updated at 11:57am AEST on 23 July 2021.
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